Kim Erwin is Associate Research Professor for Healthcare Design at the Institute of Design (ID). An expert in healthcare design, she applies design methods to complex systems and develops novel solutions to address healthcare’s frontline problems. Specifically, Kim applies the strategic planning methods of human-centered design and communication methods to build teams, identify opportunities, and tailor interventions in real-world settings to accelerate adoption by patients and clinical staff.
Kim’s unique contributions in activating design to make real change in healthcare systems include working with the National Academy of Medicine to develop a new model for measuring community engagement; co-leading a grant piloting a tool for low-income, high-risk pregnant women to talk to their obstetricians about prenatal care costs; incorporating design methods into a federal grant to learn how to help hospitals across the country adopt new practices for COPD patients discharged home; founding the Institute of Healthcare Delivery Design at UIC; and leading ID’s Action Lab in partnership with Rush University. She is the only designer to be a standing member of a scientific review panel for the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).
As a professor and leader of several centers dedicated to merging the design and healthcare sciences, Kim has created and delivered curricula tailored for health professionals, health services researchers, medical students, and quality-improvement teams across the United States. Kim has a master of design (MDes) from ID and a bachelor of arts degree in philosophy and logic from Loyola University Chicago.
Activities at Illinois Tech
Kim runs the Equitable Healthcare Initiative at the Institute of Design’s Action Lab. This inaugural project is a partnership with Rush University that engages community groups, healthcare providers, and industry partners to design, test, and implement high-value primary care that communities want and can use. The collaboration also features a co-taught course in which ID students work with Rush students across educational programs to design equitable primary care. This hands-on, interdisciplinary lab engages teams of students in an exploration and construction of clinical point-of-care experiences that are better suited to local community settings and population-specific needs.
Kim’s research bridges the fields of design and healthcare delivery, and she targets interventions, services, and strategies that respond to the people and environments where these activities occur—a strategy for equity and cultural inclusion. Kim first joined ID in 2006 as an adjunct professor and served as a visiting, assistant, and associate professor through 2017. She returned to ID in 2021.
From 2017 to 2020, Kim served as Associate Director of Population Health Sciences at the University of Illinois Chicago, where she co-founded and co-directed its Institute for Healthcare Delivery Design. In that role, Kim led multidisciplinary teams to bring design methods to clinical trials and to improve care quality and care transitions for multiple conditions. She applied these methods in multiple clinical settings, including Emergency Departments, inpatient units, and outpatient clinics.
On the research side, Kim has been a named investigator on multiple grants since 2013. Some of these have addressed significant equity issues, including working with a community asthma program in collaboration with the Navajo Nation and piloting a tool to promote and facilitate cost conversations with low-income, high-risk women during prenatal care. Led by the University of Chicago, Kim is incorporating design methods into a federally funded grant to learn how to help fifteen hospitals across the country adopt new practices for patients with COPD being discharged home—the first time a design method will be subjected to a randomized trial to understand its effectiveness and its relevance for healthcare improvement.
Kim is also a writer and strategist, with twenty years of experience in innovation consulting. Her book, Communicating the New: Methods to Shape and Accelerate Innovation, describes communication methods that help teams create and diffuse critical knowledge inside organizations.
Speaking and Publishing
Since 2010, Kim has participated in or led more than sixty presentations, panels, and workshops throughout the United States. These engagements include, most recently, “Using Human-Centered Design to Help Medicine Fit Vulnerable Communities,” a presentation at Arizona University’s College of Public Health (October 2020); “Tailoring Interventions to Fit People Using Human-Centered Design,” a workshop at the Veterans Administration in Seattle, Washington (June 2019); and “Conversations on Cost of Care,” a presentation at a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Forum meeting in Princeton, New Jersey (June 2019).
Books and Book Sections
Erwin, K. 2013. Communicating the New: Methods to Shape and Accelerate Innovation. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
Whitney, P., and K. Erwin. 1994. “Is Theory of Any Use to Designers?” in R. Perlman and V. Magolin, eds., Chicago Graphic Design: The Best of Contemporary Chicago Graphic Design, with Essays on Past and Future Trends. Beverly, MA: Rockport Publishers.
Erwin, K., L. Gerald, R. Kumar, and J.A. Krishnan. 2021. “Methods and Results of Engaging a Participant Advisory Committee for the PrecISE Trial.” The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (in press).
Kim, S., J. Klugman, S. Norell…and K. Erwin. “Improving VTE Prophylaxis Adherence Among Hospitalized Adolescents Using Human-Centered Design.” Journal of Patient Safety and Risk Management (in press).
Erwin, K., V. Fitzpatrick, S. Norell, and M. Gilliam. 2019. “Development of a Framework and Tool to Facilitate Cost-of-Care Conversations With Patients During Prenatal Care.” Annals of Internal Medicine 170 (May 7): (9_Supplement): S62-S69. doi:10.7326/M18-2207
Erwin, K., and J.A. Krishnan. 2018. “Welcome to the Beginning: Delivery Science as a Context for Engaging Design.” Information Design Journal 23, no. 3: 357–359.
Erwin, K., and J.A. Krishnan. 2016. “Redesigning Healthcare to Fit with People: Design Expertise Can Improve Delivery of Care.” BMJ 354 (August 23): i4536.
Erwin, K., and J.A. Krishnan. 2016. “Using Design Methods to Provide the Care that People Want and Need.” Journal of Comparative Effectiveness Research 5 (1): 13–15. doi:10.2217/cer.15.62
Erwin, K., M.A. Martin, T. Flippin, S. Norell, A. Shadlyn, J. Yang…J.A. Krishnan. 2016. “Engaging Stakeholders to Design a Comparative Effectiveness Trial in Children with Uncontrolled Asthma.” Journal of Comparative Effectiveness Research 5 (1): 17–30.
2020 National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: Reducing Respiratory Emergent Visits using Implementation Science Interventions Tailored to Setting ($2,499,473)
2020 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: Cost Conversations in Routine Prenatal Care ($399,000)
2017 National Institutes of Health: A Community Asthma Program on the Navajo Nation ($8,504,073)